As much as my blogging of late has been pretty sporadic (for a while now to be honest) ,and it's always been erratic, I was reminded today of why I need to keep blogging about the Nihon Ken. I started my first English blog back in 2009 Kai Ken: The Tora Inu
to blog about my experiences with my dogs, and to put to rest a lot of the misinformation about the Japanese breeds that was out there on the internet at the time. False information about their history, poorly translated information on the breeds and their standards, and outright incorrect statements like my personal favorite 'the Japanese breeds are not allowed to be exported because they are national treasures'.
Almost immediately I realized that the Japanese breeds were not doing well in Japan. Numbers of breeders and dogs had been steadily dropping for years, and especially with the medium size breeds, we were reaching critically low levels of breeding animals. This can be attributed to the aging population in Japan, young people moving to urban areas, and their lack of interest the Japanese breeds, and the housing situation in urban areas being extremely unfriendly toward dog ownership (other than for small breeds). The medium and large size Japanese breeds were just not appealing to the general population here, and they are not being promoted properly.
Bucking this trend in Japan, or basically creating a new trend, is a difficult thing. In comparison, the popularity and awareness of the Japanese breeds overseas has been steadily growing. I felt that one of the ways to have a 'plan b' for the breeds was to help breeders overseas set up breeding programs that included as much stock from as many different lines as possible. I moved on in blogging, and since it wasn't just about the Kai anymore, I started this blog The Nihon Ken.
As the movement to preserve the Japanese breeds really started to gain momentum due to groups of Nihon Ken fanciers like The Nihon Ken Forum
, I set up a website dedicated to handling export requests www.japandogexport.com
Now here we are in 2018. I've moved several times over the years, with the last one 5 years ago dropping me in the mountains of Chiba prefecture, rebuilding a cabin, hunting, and getting in some surf when possible. Last summer my youngest brother moved out here with me which really consolidated this lifestyle of building, hunting, breeding, and surfing. There's a lot of things we do know that don't really have to do with Nihon Ken (like hunting with Pointers and surfing) so I'm setting up another site for all that other stuff Awa Mountain Dog
which is a take off of my kennel name Awa Yamainu Sou.
I think we've come a long way in the almost 10 years I've been involved with the Japanese breeds. I've become a part of amazing friendships that span the globe, been a part of helping a lot of people get their foot in the door with the Japanese breeds. There's a lot of good information out there now thanks to so many people setting up personal and club sites with correct information about the breeds' temperaments, standards, and history. I feel we're heading in a good direction.
And then yesterday I received a call from a board member of the Hokkaido Ken Hozonkai. He casually dropped a comment that perhaps I should try to come to the national show in March as who knows how much longer they'll be around. Apparently there were only 201 Hokkaido puppies registered with the HKH last year.
Back in January of 2011 I posted this comment to a thread about why Nihon Ken pups were so hard to find.
Why are they difficult to find? Because they are rare breeds even in their native country, and the number of people that actually know about these breeds worldwide is very small.
Here are the yearly registration numbers for NK in Japan at present.
Akita (Japanese) 2000-2500
The only NK you will find with regularity in pet shops is the Shiba. Recently Hokkaido have gained popularity due to a series of commercials featuring a white Hokkaido named Otousan, and I have seen several in pet shops.
1971 was the peak of HKH registration. That year there were 7061 pups registered. By 1981 that number had dropped to 2217. 10 years later in 1991 we were down to 1432. In 2001 there were 829 registrations, and for several years after that there were around 700 yearly, but from 2013 registration had dropped to around 300.
The Hokkaido Ken has two competing registries, the Hokkaido Ken Hozonkai, and the smaller Hokkaido Ken Kyokai. HKK registrations are around half of HKH numbers I hear, so we are now at around 300 Hokkaido registrations in Japan. That's a huge decline in the past decade from my initial estimate of 900-1000 total. The Hokkaido Ken is hitting a cliff. With so few registrations, the club is going to have a hard time functioning, and an even harder time getting enough dogs together for shows.
I checked in to see how the other breeds are doing.
Shiba registrations with NIPPO last year: 30,100 (plus JKC 11,829)
Kishu: 372 (JKC 2 probably exports, not pups)
Shikoku: 288 (JKC 23 probably exports, not pups)
HKH: 201 (JKC 33)
KKA registrations for 2016: 840 (holding steady) JKC 178 (holding steady)
I didn't get around to calling AKIHO today.
Basically today I made time to blog to sound the alarm. The Hokkaido is in trouble. For all of you that have continually been bugging me for Hokkaido males to import, I'm not hiding them, there just aren't any!
I got involve with the Shikoku mostly because they were the breed at the time that needed the most help. Here are the numbers:
2017: 288 so at least we're holding pretty steady.
The key to this is letting the breeders now that if they breed, I'll help them find pups. More pups out there finding homes is good for the breed.
Lord help me I don't want to have to get involved with the Hokkaido, I don't have the space for another breed, but maybe some of you have the resources?
This year I'm going to work on promoting the Japanese breeds within Japan. That's my resolution for 2018. Y'all are doing great overseas with clubs like the Hokkaido Association of North America HANA
promoting the breeding in North America. It's time to figure out how to get Japan back on track, getting new, young, members into these preservation societies and push back us back from the cliff of genetic extinction.